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Inspiring families with fresh thinking on parenting

Yano — Inspiring families with fresh thinking on parenting

Sexting – talk to your kids about it

Posted on 21st September, 2012 | filed under Featured, Well Being

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Your teenager may think it’s a bit of a joke but that’s just the thing – they probably don’t ‘think’ it through. Jo Hemmings says sexting isn’t harmless fun. Here she discusses the implications of pressing ‘send’

Recent surveys have revealed that up to 60 per cent of young teenagers regularly indulge in sexting. For those who may not be aware of what the practice involves, it is the sending and sharing of sexually provocative messages and pictures from mobile phones and computers, via text, email and social networking sites such as Facebook. In a recent study of texting, three-quarters of girls who had sent explicit messages to boys have had their supposedly private messages shared with other teens without their consent.

Much as you may be reluctant to acknowledge it, these figures would indicate that there is a fair chance that your teen – and possibly your pre-teen – is sending and/or receiving messages and photos of a deeply sexually explicit nature. Often far more traumatic for girls than boys, sexting is a form of harassment and bullying and it is up to you to show your child the error of their ways.

For a mature adult, sending sexually provocative messages can be flirtatious, teasing and fun. For a child it is disturbing, distressing and has been shown to provoke thoughts of suicide in those girls who feel they simply can’t refuse the requests that come through. While sexting is not necessarily indicative of wider sexual behaviour, the peer pressure behind it causes significant and long lasting trauma to those that get involved. Additionally, it is actually illegal to share images of under 18s in this way.

Monitoring the computer at home or putting some sort of restriction on mobile phone usage may help deter your child from sexting, but given how widespread the practice has become, it is better to address the subject with your child, whether you have any genuine cause for concern or not. You need to be able to explain just how damaging to self-esteem the practice is and that those who encourage the sharing of these images and messages are foolish, exploitative and lack any real integrity. It’s important to encourage your child to have the sort of self-respect that allows her to say no, if only on the basis that she has more dignity than to share explicit images of her body with virtual strangers. And that the people who make these requests are misguided and lack any self-respect of their own. And, quite apart from the other psychological risks involved, sexting is committing a criminal offence that could get both parties into serious trouble.

Easy access to internet pornography has undoubtedly encouraged sexting, and it is always wise to ensure that there is a filtering system on your home computer. However, we live in a world where such images are only a mouse click away and children are naturally curious about sexuality. They are learning to come to terms with their own changing bodies, emotions and hormones, which is a natural part of growing up. We need to empower our children to make healthy decisions for themselves, so simply forbidding sexting is unlikely to put a complete stop to it – and indeed for some children may simply encourage that natural teenage rebellion.

Don’t interrogate your child, but introduce the subject as part of your responsibility to discuss healthy sexual practice as they begin to mature. Encourage them to talk about their concerns without fear of anger or judgement. Use an empathetic approach – if they are forwarding explicit images of other people, how would they feel if it were them? Or they were to be seen by people outside of their own age group, Paedophiles for example? – many of whom use social networking sites to pretend that they are an adolescent for this very reason.

Technology rather than a sexual revolution has fuelled the rise in sexting and with it goes a personal responsibility to learn self-respect and dignity. But also to understand that what seems like some private fun is in very real danger of going viral or getting into the hands of others that might exploit these images.

It’s worth pointing out that once it’s ‘out there’ you can’t get it back. What appears harmless now may indeed cause distress and embarrassment or worse later.

Like so many subjects involving your child’s emerging sexual maturity and independence, communication and empathy are far more influential than threats, forbidding your child to do something or indeed turning a blind eye to the issues.

Have you experienced problems with your kids sexting? We’d love to hear your thoughts on the problem. Please share this feature with other parents who might be interested because forewarned is fore-armed.

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Sexting – talk to your kids about it was posted on 21st September, 2012 by Jo Hemmings under Featured, Well Being

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Jo Hemmings

About the author: Jo Hemmings

Jo Hemmings is a Behavioural Psychologist, specialising in the Media as well as a Dating and Relationship Coach and TV and radio personality. She has degrees from the universities of Warwick and London. Jo is the UK’s best known and respected celebrity psychologist and was the UK’s first Dating Coach. She is a regular psychologist on ITV’s Daybreak and is the sex therapist on ITV’s This Morning. She has also been the Behavioural Psychologist on C4’s Big Brother’s Little Brother since 2008 appearing on all series including Big Brother 11 and Ultimate Big Brother. Jo helps behind the scenes, in the contestant selection process, by giving psychological advice and assessment to reality TV producers and contestants, both during the selection procedure and the series. Recent work includes being the psychologist for Katie Price's reality TV series Signed by Katie, Amy Winehouse: The Untold Story and Whitney’s Addictions: Death of a Diva for Channel 5 and as the Dating Coach on Sky 1’s series The Love Machine and C4’s Jewish Mother of the Year to be broadcast in autumn, 2012. Jo has two sons.
  • mary poppins

    I also believe that talk to your child in a calm way is the best way to get your point across with out sounding to as your children might say( old and so not cool). certain parents feel they have to give their children everything and allow them to make their own mistakes to be able to grow,where as some feel the need for rule and not doing anything unless they have been told to do it so they can’t make mistakes. It’s a tough subject how far is to far and how can we make sure ill children do the right thing with out sounding to bossy. As a child it wasn’t sextxting that was the problem it was on line chat sites,where you never knew who you were talking to but it was the excitment of not really knowing that keeped my age group doing. of course it was a different matter if anyone of us even thought about meeting these people in real life, it was just a fantasy. The thing is you have to remember with children us that in their head/life they are old enough,so therefore sit them down and explain that if they do sextxt to be careful who they are doing it with and also ask that if they do send a “sexy” picture how would they feel if they found out that picture was shown around. children are far smarter that adult give them credit for. explain your thoughts and feeling then allow them to choose what they want to do and pray to god they do the smart and right thing.